Posted by yellowdog on Tuesday, February 10, 2015
I just posted photos (click the "Photos Button" above my picture at left) which show how you can easily construct your own stapled amplifying/clarifying pick using a sharp pair of scissors, a common office stapler, a pair of small needle nose pliers and a typical celluloid guitar pick. The photos show a Fender brand, thin, celluloid pick but any similar pick should work fine. Here's how to do it:
STEP 1. Staple the printed side of the pick as follows: Locate a line of printing just below the widest part of the pick and find the letter of printing which appears to lie on centerline of the pick. You can check this with a ruler if you wish but finding the exact center isn't that critical. Keep this printed letter in mind and place the staple over the printed side of the pick so that the letter is barely visible in the center of the staple. Hold both firmly as you press the stapler closed. Don't worry If the staple seems excessively crooked at an angle or too far off center because you can use needle nose pliers to remove it and try again.
STEP 2. If the staple seems reasonably centered and near the widest point of the pick turn the pick over to see the staple's points. Focus on the point on the left. Use the needle nose pliers to straighten the curved portion of the staple so that it is pointing straight up above the surface of the pick.
STEP 3. Using the scissors you will cut the left edge of the pick, as viewed from the un-printed side. Before cutting look at the photo and see where this straight side of the pick should intersect the curved bottom portion of the pick. Keeping this location in mind (so that you don't cut below it) make a straight cut of the celluloid to form the left side of the pick so that this straight edge is 1/16-inch away from the staple wire, which is at this point pointing straight up. Don't worry about the straight and curved portions at the bottom not being smoothly blended. (Sanding or filing them smooth degrades the sound a bit.)
STEP 4. Use the needle nose pliers to bend the staple wire from vertical to in-line with the top surface of the pick and in the direction away from the pick. Then curve the end of the wire slightly away from horizontal so that the point of the staple is not uncomfortable to touch. The staple wire should extend beyond the pick. This completes the left side of the pick except for cutting the angle above this end of the staple, as described in the next step.
STEP 5. The purpose of the angle cut is to reflect sound surface waves toward the other end of the staple which has its point touching the surface of the pick. To get this angle simply imagine a ping-pong ball arriving from below must be reflected toward the staple point, then cut the angle that the paddle should make to make the ball hit the end of the staple. You may find it easiest to use a small straight edge to estimate this angle and then cut along the straight edge to make the cut.
STEP 6. This step describes how to cut and shape the right side of the pick as seen from the un-printed side. This side cut will be 1/8-inch from the point where the staple wire penetrates the celluloid. First make sure that the edge of the end of the staple is in firm contact with the surface of the pick. Now make this side cut (which should generally parallel the first side cut) starting at the curve at the bottom of the pick and ending at the top of the pick. Don't worry about the notch when making this side cut.
STEP 7. Next you will cut the notch. The purpose of the notch is to carry the right edge of the pick all the way to the staple. You can use scissors to make the two cuts which comprise the notch. A more accurate tool for this task is a pair of straight edged toe nail clippers. This step increases the volume provided by the pick.
STEP 8. Use the ping-pong paddle imagination technique described earlier to make the angled cut above this end of the staple. (Imagine a ping-pong paddle at an angle that will reflect sound surface waves toward the point end of the staple and make this cut at the same angle as the ping-pong paddle.)
STEP 9. At this point only one more cut remains to be made. Hold the staple upright and look at it and visualize where the top horizontal cut should be made so that it appears at 90-degrees to the centerline. Ideally the right end of this horizontal cut should be just a little to the right or just above the point of the pick on the right hand side since it also reflects waves to the staple point touching surface of the pick.
STEP 10. You're done! Play your instrument at different volume levels in the usual way and see what you think. You should hear a louder and clearer sound than the pick that you are currently using. Try varying the angle that the pick strikes the string and notice the effect that this has on making triplets and/or tremolos as well as the quality of the sound.
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